Whether you chalk it up to self-expression, or take it all the way back to our fairy tale roots with Cinderella, there is no denying the woman's love affair with shoes. With a boutique tucked away inside the Blakeney Shopping Center, Jennifer Keen answers the call of all of us Queen City women who can't get enough footwear in our closets. Keen, a native of the Winston-Salem area, opened her 72 Shoe Boutique (9856-G Rea Road, 704-542-0472) nearly three years ago after leaving the corporate world behind. An engineer by trade with a computer science background, what Keen really wanted was to own and operate her own business — and her love for high heels took it from there. In November, the store expanded first to the Black Lion off Park Road, and then with the launch of their online store at www.72shoeboutique.com. Now Charlotteans can indulge their shoe fixation from the comfort of their own home.
Creative Loafing: You left corporate America to embark upon the fashion industry; and now not only are you a boutique owner, but your own boss. What was the transition like?
Jennifer Keen: In the corporate world, there is always a plan, always someone telling you what to do next. Now I'm the one making the plans. There was a lot of research involved in getting us up and running. We went to trade shows to get to know people in the industry and did a lot of research on the different areas. At the time, the Blakeney area was really growing. For anyone planning to start their own business, a business plan is a must. As my own boss, I had to be careful about my spending and a plan really helped with that.
So how do you choose what merchandise you carry in the store?
That goes back to area research — we buy for the consumer. Three times a year we go to market in either New York or Atlanta to see the newest trends; the rest of the year, vendors come to us. We got started at Black Lion after we were spotted at the Southern Women's Show. Black Lion is known as a home goods store; they were trying to add some fashion to the mix.
Can you describe your shoes in three words?
Sophisticated, timeless and fun. Our shoes are all very unique; we offer such variety in such a small space. Whether you're the business woman, or the stay-at home-mom, we've got you covered. We're pretty exclusive. In the spring, we'll be the only vendor in the area offering the Coco Rose line out of the U.K.